In a limited sense, the United States seems to be moving towards a situation comparable to that after World War I. The continuation of conflict as a normal pattern of international relations, growing disillusionment with the European Community, and the traumatic results of the attempt at “nation-building” in Southeast Asia—all these have combined with a pressing national agenda to resurrect feelings of distrust and moral censure, and desires to escape the contamination of power politics. And as in the past, this tendency to withdraw is sustained by the omnipotence of an illusion and the power of a very particular arrogance.
The illusion is that there exists a fundamental harmony in the moral-political world—that once the cold war is “over,” peace will emerge; that the continuance of conflict is evidence of perverseness on the part of various states and leaders; and that continued participation in the game of international politics has and will continue to corrupt the American spirit. Newspaper columnists, senators, and academics declare that the re-ordering of American priorities and the resolution of its internal problems of social justice will have vast international as well as domestic consequences—that the light upon the mountain will be re-kindled as a beacon to the nations. The particular arrogance of this stance is that what is good for America is good for all other nations. It asserts that America is a model which is universally valid for all.